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Preparing for labor and delivery as you head into your birth room can be…well, kind of scary!
As a first-time mom who didn’t spend enough time preparing for birth, it felt extra scary as we waited for our bundle of joy to arrive.
Although you can read tons of books, maybe take some classes, and look endlessly for different resources to help you feel more confident about giving birth.
That’s why this post is loaded with information about preparing for labor and delivery!
It also features a special interview with Liesel Teen who you might recognize as @mommy.labornurse on Instagram! Liesel is a labor & delivery nurse who helps educate moms about birth and what’s to come! She also has a WEALTH of birth information on her blog, MommyLaborNurse.
DISCLAIMER: This post is for information and educational purposes ONLY & does not constitute medical advice by any means. If you think you need medical attention, please consult with your medical provider!
What exactly does “going into labor” mean?
Labor in itself is the act of your uterus contracting to end with birthing a baby! Aka: Childbirth!
A tip from a mama who had kind of curve-ball birthing experience, DON’T be afraid to ask about wearing your own labor gown!
Everything happened so oddly for us that I actually felt a bit intimidated to ask if I could change into something more comfortable. I had a labor gown picked out and packed and never got the change to wear it.
What are the first signs of labor approaching?
Typically, some of the more earlier signs that may indicate labor is near or approaching include:
- Strong & Frequent/Increasing Contractions
- Baby “drops” lower towards the pelvis
- You lose your mucous plug
- Your water breaks
If you’re experiencing signs or symptoms that feel like you could be going into labor, you should call your doctor or midwife right away to let them know what you’re experiencing.
When should I go to the hospital for labor?
It’s important to know that “when” you should go to the hospital for labor will vary per person. You should also be thinking about your commute to the hospital, will there be traffic, etc…
The rule of thumb is that once you’re in “active labor“, you should be on your way or at the hospital.
If you’re having a home birth, you will likely be in contact with your midwife during this time and she will be there guiding you through the process.
When to start pushing during labor?
Typically, you will start pushing your baby out once you’re 10cm dilated and your body is ready to get that baby out!
The wait time between labor and pushing can sometimes seem like an eternity, but eventually, it will happen!
Once you begin pushing, your doctor or nurses will likely help you to pace and breathe through each push. Timing it along with those hefty contractions so that each push is effective and you’re not just tiring yourself out.
On average, most first-time moms push anywhere from 2-3 hours.
And don’t forget, after you’re done pushing out your sweet baby, you still have to deliver that placenta! This typically happens within 30 mins or less after your baby is born.
This means you will likely continue to have contractions, in fact, until your uterus shrinks back down to its normal size over the next few weeks, you will continue to have uterine contractions. Just know they shouldn’t be nearly as intense as birthing contractions.
For me, they felt more like intense menstrual cramps, but nothing worst.
Preparing for Delivery Day – Tips from a Labor & Delivery Nurse
As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog post, Liesel from Mommy Labor Nurse was so kind enough to answer some questions about labor & delivery to help all you lovely mommy to be’s prepare for your big day!
Check out our interview below with all of her VERY detailed & helpful tips!
1 ) Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions, first, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hi! Thanks so much for having me! My name is Liesel Teen, and I am a labor and delivery nurse and also a mom!
I live in Raleigh, NC with my husband and my 3-year old son.
Along with working at the hospital, I also have a brand dedicated to pregnancy/labor education.
You may know me as Mommy Labor Nurse throughout the internet! It’s my passion to share the knowledge that I have as a nurse with as many moms as I can through the internet so that they feel more prepared going into motherhood! 🙂
2) I remember being SO afraid of birth while pregnant with my first, what is the ONE tip you would give to any new or expecting moms to help them ease their fear of giving birth?
My most favorite tip is: Educate yourself!
That’s what my whole brand is about. The more educated you are going into labor, hopefully, the more in control you will feel of the situation.
It can be so so scary for women to go through this process (especially first-time moms), and the more we know, the better, more informed, decisions we can make. And, the less anxiety we will have as a result!
3) Just taking it from the top, what are the most common ways pregnant moms can be sure labor has started?
Labor is the kind of thing that you USUALLY will not question. I’ve had some moms be in complete denial at 6-8 centimeters dilated, but typically, when it’s real labor…you’re not going to be asking yourself, “Am I in labor right now?”. You’re going to be saying, “Oh wow, ok I’m definitely in labor and this ain’t stopping!”.
Some of the characteristics of true labor contractions include painful, regular, intensifying contractions. There is nothing that you can do to stop these contractions once they start. They begin to follow a pattern, and you’ll increasingly find yourself changing your mood and your breathing through them.
You may find that eventually, you cannot talk at all through them.
Another sign of labor? Your water breaks! Your water can break in one of two ways, a BIG gush (like you peed your pants)…or a slow trickle that doesn’t ease up. Remember that if you ever THINK your water has broken (regardless of how many weeks you are) – call your provider to be evaluated.
4) In general, is there an “average” time moms can expect to be in labor? Knowing there are 4 stages of labor, can you briefly walk us through what to expect?
There’s really not! It’s so so so dependent on so many factors!
I’ve seen some moms have 1-hour labors, from start to finish, and others have 48-hour labors. Typically, if this is your first time, your labor will be longer (don’t be surprised if it lasts for more than a day!) – but of course, that’s not always the case.
In a typical scenario, yes, your labor will go through four stages. The first stage is the longest, which is broken up into subsections: early labor, active labor, and transitional labor.
The first stage is from when your cervix is 0cm – 10cm dilated. Early labor begins when you start to have mild to moderate contractions that are beginning to show a pattern. You will typically be able to breathe through these and talk through these. This early-stage ends when your cervix is typically 4-5 centimeters.
Active labor is more intense. Your contractions will intensify, and you’ll have a much harder time managing these contractions as compared to early labor. Lots of changes in positions, labor support, water therapy, and counterpressure can be helpful here! This stage ends when your cervix is approximately 7 centimeters.
Then on to transitional labor. Transitional labor is the craziest part of labor for sure! You may show your crazy side, yell, scream, thrash, etc. Labor support is immensely important here! This is the shortest sub-stage of labor, for a good reason! Once you hit 10cm, this entire first stage ends, and you move to the whole second stage: pushing.
Pushing lengths, again, can really depend on so many factors. Some moms push for 2 contractions, others push for many many more! After pushing, comes your sweet baby!
The third stage is from the time you deliver baby, to the time you deliver your placenta. There’s not too much to say about this stage, it’s USUALLY pretty short-lived, although sometimes placentas can be tricky and require additional interventions to be removed.
The final and fourth stage begins with the delivery of your placenta and ends around 1-2 hours postpartum. In this time, your uterus begins to contract HARD. Don’t worry though, these contractions don’t feel ANYTHING like labor contractions. They are a LOT less painful.
Some women do report “period-like cramps”, but many women do not feel these contractions at all in the first few hours. In this first hour or two, your nurse will be checking your bleeding, rubbing on your uterus (from the outside, ha) and checking your vital signs pretty frequently.
5) For those having a hospital birth, what can mom expect when she arrives at the hospital (assuming things are normal)?
If you arrive in L&D triage with a complaint of “labor”, there will be a few things done! First, we will ask you four questions:
1 – “When did you start contractions?”
2 – “Has your water broken yet?”
3 – “Is your baby moving around normally?”
4 – “Are you bleeding at all?”
You’ll then be asked to change, provide a urine sample, and be placed on the fetal monitor to evaluate your baby’s heart rate and your contractions. We will need to monitor you for about 20 minutes unless something is abnormal.
During this time, we will be asking you routine questions for our database. Questions like, “What do you plan to do for pain?” “Do you have a birth plan?” “What is your feeding plan for your baby?”.
We will also go over your prenatal records, and make sure nothing was missed during your prenatal care.
After you’re all checked in, and you’ve been monitored, your provider will come to see you and perform a cervical check to determine how dilated you are.
He/she will also test you to see if your water has broken if you also complain of that! If you’re more than 4 centimeters, OR your water has broken, you’re here to stay and we’ll get you out to a labor room!
6) Another ‘scary’ topic is whether or not to get the epidural….from your experience as an L&D nurse, what should moms know about receiving an epidural to help them decide if it’s the right choice for them?
It can be scary, and again, I stress that knowledge is power here! I’ve written an article that details the ENTIRE procedure which you can read about here.
Often times moms will read this article and report that this totally eased their fears about what it’s going to be like!
Just a few other tips, I think getting an epidural is such a personal preference. I chose not to get one with my first birth, but who knows, I may choose to get one for any future births I have!
Labor is definitely harder without one, but they do come with small risks and side effects. It’s just about what you envision your birth to look like!
7) Before getting an epidural or those opting to not have one, are there other ways to cope with the pain?
Yes of course! One of the main points that I stress to my patients (and members who took my courses) is to focus on breathing and relaxing all the muscles in your body as best you can during a contraction.
Breathe as deeply and as slowly as possible, and think about relaxing not only your pelvis but your face, your arms, your shoulder…everything!
This not only helps to relieve pain, but it also helps to distract you during the contraction, and helps you progress too!
8) Assuming it’s close to pushing time, what birth positions (aside from the classing hospital bed) should moms at least know about?
There are a few! Many moms do prefer the typical lithotomy position (legs up in stirrups), but some women report back pain from this, and overall discomfort.
A position I like to do with moms is hands and knees, this helps get pressure off of your back, and gravity helps pull your baby down too. Others include side-lying (pulling one leg up), or squatting.
Just keep in mind that you’ll need to have a convo with your birth provider during your prenatal care about your birth wishes.
Some providers (sadly) are not too keen on any other position other than lithotomy for delivery, and if this is something that is important to you, make sure you bring it up!
9) I know you have some amazing birthing classes you’ve created for expecting mamas, could you tell us a little about them and how they can be helpful?
Yes! I have two prenatal courses that are currently being updated, but release again on February 24th!
They will have all new videos, and some new content as well!
We talk about pain management, AND epidurals in both courses, but each course is slightly different depending on which way you’d prefer to go!
They are both very long, detailed courses. I talk about anatomy, pain management, pushing, pain options, what to expect during postpartum and more!
They also include free access to my Facebook group, linked to the courses, where you can ask questions, share your birth story, or read other women’s birth stories who have previously delivered!
I’m very proud of them, and I have had so many moms rave about having wonderful, empowering births because they were so prepared for the process!
10) Lastly, are there any final pieces of advice you’d give to moms that we didn’t already cover?
Let’s see, my overall theme is certainly to educate yourself! But I would also advise a new, soon-to-be-mom that sometimes ALL of this info is overwhelming, and to take it one step at a time, and ask ANY AND ALL questions that you have.
Being pregnant and becoming a mom changes your life in so many ways, and brings so many challenges and questions!
Don’t be afraid to question things that don’t make sense to you, and don’t be afraid to speak up and advocate for yourself, whether that’s in your prenatal care, in the delivery room, or in your peds office.
Knowledge is power, and knowledge also brings confidence 🙂
Thank you so much to Liesel for taking the time to talk with us about this big & scary topic 🙂 I hope that expecting moms can feel a lot less scared and much more confident about birth after reading this post!
Preparing for Labor and Delivery Recap
- Be sure to pay attention to those early signs when labor is near, if you’re ever concerned, call your provider immediately!
- As soon as you reach active labor, notify your hospital or midwife.
- Getting an epidural is 100% your decision!
- Utilizing different birthing positions is also your decision, EDUCATE yourself as much as possible so you are comfortable voicing these preferences with your provider ahead of time!
- Don’t neglect to prepare for life after birth either!
- From Liesel herself, “Educate yourself! Knowledge is power, and knowledge also brings confidence“.
Hope you enjoyed this post about ‘Preparing for Labor and Delivery’!
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